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Frye: Game Commission to launch first marketing campaign

| Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 8:53 p.m.

Hunting is about to go mainstream in Pennsylvania, curiously thanks to some of the people least involved in the sport.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is going to launch its first marketing campaign next year. It's going to run ads on radio and in print and online media, urging people to go hunting. It's going to post billboards with the same message. It's going to launch a streamlined website, gohuntpa.org, where people can quickly find out about things like when seasons open, where pheasants are being stocked, how to buy a license and more.

The campaign will focus on the nine people-heavy Pennsylvania counties that already sell the most hunting licenses: Allegheny, which ranks No. 1, as well as Westmoreland, Butler, Cambria, Erie, Cumberland, York, Lancaster and Berks.

“Fringe” hunters, those who buy licenses some years but not others, are the target. It turns out there are a lot more of those people out there than anyone realized.

Since 2009-10, when it went to an automated sales system statewide, the commission never has sold more than about 948,000 general hunting licenses in any one year. But it's sold licenses to a little more than 1.32 million people over that time.

The reason is “churn,” said Samantha Pedder, the agency's hunting outreach coordinator.

A look at license sales over the past four years found that only about 50 percent of hunters bought one every year. The rest came and went.

Thirteen percent of hunters bought a license three out of four years, 14 percent bought one two out of four years and 23 percent bought one only once in four years.

Additional surveys have revealed that between 18 percent and 25 percent of Pennsylvania's 10 million adult residents consider themselves “hunters,” said Keith Snyder, chief of the commission's hunter education and outreach division. That means the pool of potential license buyers is really between 1.8 million and 2.5 million annually.

“That begs the question: Do we have a recruitment issue, or do we have a participation issue? I would submit to you that we have a lot more hunters in Pennsylvania than we ever gave ourselves credit for,” Snyder asked.

The effort is going to cost about $500,000. Federal grants will pay for all of it, said commission executive director Carl Roe.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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